Paint Decorated Leather Fire Bucket
Paint-Decorated Leather Fire Bucket, Charlestown, Massachusetts, ca. 1820, painted black with red collar and handle,
Inscribed: Marshall Johnson/ 1820 / Ancient Fire Society/ Charlestown
Condition: Some paint loss to areas on the backside of the bucket, otherwise in fine condition.
Old label: Fire bucket – one of several hung in the store of Hiram Johnson on the corner of Washington & Union Park Streets. / Given to F. P. Phipps by his daughter Mrs. Cora Russell / May 1923.
Ex. Coll: Hiram Johnson store, Boston, MA; acquired by Mrs. Cora Russell; given to her father, F.P. Phipps, 1923. In his book, A Century of Town Life: A History of Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1775-1887, James Hunnewell discusses Charlestown’s Fire Societies as pillars of the community. The Ancient was the oldest. In 1743 it had been founded by homeowners to protect themselves from fire. Originally there were no more than 25 members including a clerk and treasurer. Elections were held four times a year and if more than two negative votes were cast against a potential member they were excluded. Marshall Johnson’s fire bucket No. 1 from 1820 is probably one of a pair Johnson kept. Members of the Ancient Fire Society were “obliged to keep two leather buckets, two bags (1 ½ x 34 yd.) with his name on them, and a bed-key and belt”. Johnson was probably the father of Marshall Johnson, Jr., a renowned marine painter who worked in and around Boston. The Ancient, The Phoenix, Washington and Jefferson Fire Societies of Charlestown were replaced by government fire companies. Leather fire buckets like Marshall Johnson’s are wonderful documents of American’s long history of ingenuity and civic mindedness.
Dimensions: 12 3/4" bucket height
Item ID: FA-RO 176